By "Radical" Russ Belville on February 12, 2010
On the heels of Karri’s story on the show yesterday of the Redding, California, nursing home manager who was booted against the residents’ wishes for his medical marijuana use, we get another medical marijuana nursing home story from Missoula, Montana:
(Missoula Independent) Missoula police raided a local nursing home last week after receiving a tip that an individual was selling marijuana to its residents. The suspected dealer, Taylor Gibbs, 22, was found to be a medical marijuana caregiver registered with the state, and no charges were filed.
Gibbs says on the morning of Feb. 3 a Missoula S.W.A.T. team and the Missoula Drug Enforcement Task Force came to Eagle Watch Estates on Missoula’s Westside and entered the residence of an individual for whom Gibbs serves as a caretaker (not a medical marijuana caregiver). The police then, Gibbs says, interviewed other residents in the facility. Gibbs says he serves as a medical marijuana caregiver for as many as 12 Eagle Watch residents, most of whom are elderly and ill.
Police found no wrongdoing, but Gibbs says damage was done. He claims the resident for whom he was caretaking when police arrived severed ties with him, fearful that Gibbs’ association with medical marijuana could lead to other incidents. Gibbs also says he lost medical marijuana patients at Eagle Watch because they’re now “just a little too afraid.”
It’s stories like this that stoke my fears that legalizing marijuana for just a few is going to backfire. You can’t just legalize 5% of the market for marijuana and not expect the negative consequences of the illegal 95% of the market from affecting the legal 5%.
Exhibit A) Prices for medical marijuana that meet or exceed the prices for black market marijuana.
Exhibit B) Home invasion robberies of legal medical patients.
Exhibit C) SWAT team raids of nursing homes over a bag of weed.
My fear is that we legalized marijuana for a few, the “green rush” highlights and attracts the worst aspects of the black market, and we see public backlash against both the “exploitation of the sick and dying” and “fraud and abuse of the law by healthy people looking to get high”. The frame will become “See, we let you legalize it a little and look at what terrible things happened!” Already these sentiments have led to stricter statutes as more states legalize medical use, such as New Jersey, which just passed the first medical marijuana law that doesn’t allow patients to grow their own herb.
There exists now the perfect opportunity for legalization for all adults, which is the only logical way medical users can ever be free of the effects of the black market. 81% of the public support medical marijuana and 44%-53% support marijuana legalization. Now it can be said that legalizing marijuana for 5% of its users hasn’t caused the sky to fall. Now we have an enormous economic and employment deficit that would be cut by re-legalization. Now we have the attention of the public on the horror of 15,000 murders in two years of Mexican drug war over brick weed.
But if this moment passes… if the economy improves… if the “green rush” leads to more negative headlines… if the Mexican massacres start happening on American soil… if Big Pharma succeeds in duplicating whole plant marijuana’s medical value… if more East Coast states pass “no home grow” medical bills… we may find this country settling on very strictly regulated medical marijuana where you’re in as much trouble for smoking it without a prescription as you are carrying a bottle of Vicodin without a prescription.
Medical marijuana is so 20th Century. It’s time to legalize in the dawn of the 21st.